Thursday, July 08, 2021

How to Stay Motivated and Keep Writing

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: A lack of motivation is a vicious cyclethe less motivated we are, the worse we feel, which only kills our motivation further. Laurence MacNaughton shares tips on how to stay motivated and keep writing.

Like the rough draft of a novel, life doesn't follow a carefully planned outline. Bad things happen. Circumstances change. Life gets overwhelming. At some point, you may realize that you've stopped writing. And the idea of getting started again looms over you like a sheer cliff that's impossible to climb. How can you ever get motivated to finish that book?

Don't worry. Every writer has been there, at one point or another. The writers who become successful are the ones who find a way to overcome obstacles and finish their novels. You can be successful too, and here's how.

1. Have faith in yourself.

Before you do anything else, you need to cut yourself a little slack. Forget about all of the writing you think you should have been doing. Beating yourself up is not productive. So ignore those negative thoughts.

Instead, recognize that whatever you've been going through, even if it's just everyday life, is not easy. If you've been having an especially tough time, recognize that it's temporary. Whatever the situation is, you will get through it.

If you're holding onto any negativity, let it go. If you find that you're criticizing yourself, stop it. Accept where you are today. It's OK. You can start moving forward today, at your own speed.

(Here's more with Battling the Doubt Monster: Ignoring Nellie the Naysayer)  

2. Carry a notebook everywhere.

Inspiration doesn't show up on demand. It comes at random moments while you're busy living life. So, train yourself to capture that inspiration when and where it happens.

When you have an idea, write it down. Even if it's vague. Even if you don't know how you'll use it. Even if it's nothing more than a word or phrase. Write it down.

"Oh, I'll remember this later." Right? Probably not. I never do. So write it down.

My personal recommendation is to tuck a few index cards in your pocket. (If you want to get fancy, they fit perfectly in a passport case or checkbook cover.) Maybe carry a little notebook. Or send yourself a text. Or even use a voice recorder app on your phone.

Use whatever tools you like to capture your inspirations. Collect them all in one place, so that you'll have them handy when you actually do sit down to write.

(Here's more with Why Writers Should NEVER Carry a Notebook)    

3. Drum up some new ideas.

For me, the worst time to come up with new ideas is when I'm actually sitting at the keyboard. All too often, that leads to a relentlessly blank screen and the blinking cursor of doom.

I do much better when I can step away from the desk to do my brainstorming. Don't be afraid to take a walk. Read a book. Visit a bookstore. Let your ideas percolate.

Try sitting down with a friend over coffee and talking out your ideas. See which ones they like. Ask for feedback.

Or try some creative writing prompts. Springboard off of other ideas and see what happens.

(Here's more with The Benefits of Talking Through Your Scenes)    

4. Schedule a time to write.

Do you ever tell yourself that you'll write when you have some spare time? Sure, me too. But I have some bad news for you. "Spare time" equals never.

The human brain can come up with pretty much any distraction to keep you from writing. Anytime I decide to write, my brain says, "Wait! Here's an idea! Let's go do something completely different!"

That never leads to writing.

Trust me, if your brain is anything like mine, it is excellent at evading the whole writing thing.

So how do you beat it? By deciding right now that you will write later.

I'm not talking about procrastination. I'm talking about scheduling.

Put it on your calendar. Right now. Pick a specific date and a specific time. Maybe next Tuesday at 7 PM. Whatever works for you. Just write it down, and then when Tuesday evening rolls around, miraculously you will have time to write.

(Here's more with Scheduling for Writing Success)    

5. Turn off the distractions.

I know you love your phone, but it's evil.

I'm sorry, but it is. It's an insidious distraction machine, like those flashing one-armed bandits clustered in a Las Vegas casino. Only instead of draining your wallet, your phone will suck up all of your attention.

You need that attention. It's valuable. It's the fuel that powers your writing. Don't let the distraction machine suck it all away from you.

When I write, I don't even have my phone in the same room with me. For the same reason, I turn off all notifications on my computer. And I close all of my web browser tabs, except for music.

Leave the phone outside. Shut the door. Turn off the distractions. Trust me, do this and you'll get more writing done.

(Here's more with The Easiest Way to Get More Writing Done)    

6. Set a timer.

For some reason, I am rarely motivated for about the first 20 minutes I write. Usually, I kind of muddle my way along, wishing I could do something interesting, like check my email.

"Hey, good idea," my brain says. "Forget about writing. Let's go check your email! Yeah!"

Which is never a good idea. This is why I use a timer.

Set it for 25 minutes (or whatever length of time works for you), and promise yourself that you will do nothing but write during that time.

For some reason, when you're on the clock, it works. You'll start writing. It may sound crazy, but give it a shot. You'll be glad you did.

(Here's more with 3 Ways to Boost Your Word Count Every Writing Session)    

7. Give yourself permission to write badly.

Perfect is the enemy of done. Don't worry about getting it just right. Just get it down on paper. You can edit later.

Start with your notes, those little bits of inspiration and you caught in the moment. Collect them, sort them out, and expand on them. To me, there's nothing more motivating than starting with inspiration and working outward.

Don't worry if it doesn't fit into your current work in progress. Just cobble something together and start writing. Get the words down. You can figure out the rest later.

(Here's more with If at First You Don't Succeed...Then You Know You're Writing a First Draft)    

8. Visualize the finish line.

Remember that writing is pretty much always hard. If it was easy to be a writer, everyone would be doing it. And they're not.

But you are. You can do this.

Remind yourself why you write. Ask yourself the big questions. Why are you writing this book? What excites you about it? How do you want readers to react to it? How do you want them to feel when they finish it?

Only you know the answers to these questions. But if you reach deep down and find that motivation, you'll know. Keep working toward those answers, as best you can. Visualize the end result.

That's what will propel you to keep writing until you reach The End.

You've got this. You're a writer. Go write.

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

About It Happened One Doomsday

Magic is real. Only a handful of natural-born sorcerers can wield its arcane power against demons, foul creatures, and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are descendants of an elite order. The best magic-users in the world.

Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them.

Sure, she’s got a smidge of magical potential. She can use crystals to see enchantments or brew up an occasional potion. And she can research practically anything in the library of dusty leather-bound tomes she keeps stacked in the back of her little store. There, sandwiched between a pawn shop and a 24-hour liquor mart, she sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by. But everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red.

Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to transform into a demonic creature that could bring about the end of the world.

Then she discovers that the Harbingers, seven fallen sorcerers, want to wipe the planet clean of humans and install themselves as new lords of an unfettered magical realm. And when they unearth the Apocalypse Scroll, the possibility of a fiery cosmic do-over suddenly becomes very real.

There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse and save the world from a fiery Doomsday – and it’s about to fall into Dru’s magically inexperienced hands....

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